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April 24, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news
By Kathleen Magramo, Helen Regan, Alicia Wallace and Mike Hayes, CNN
Russia leading the UN Security Council meeting was “the epitome of irony and hypocrisy," US ambassador says
From CNN's Mitchell McCluskey
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, sharply criticized the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after he chaired a UN Security Council meeting on Monday.
“It was the epitome of irony and hypocrisy to have the foreign minister of Russia chairing the security council, a meeting on multilateralism when Russia has, in their unilateral, unprovoked action against Ukraine, attacked everything that the UN Charter stands for,” Thomas-Greenfield said Monday in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett,
Thomas-Greenfield said she was pleased that Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of detained American Paul Whelan, said that Lavrov looked at her during the meeting.
“I am pleased that she saw him look at her so that he could feel her pain and he can feel her suffering at not having seen her brother for nearly four years,” she said.
The US is continuing to work to free American nationals detained in Russia, including Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, she said.
“We're doing everything possible to get all American citizens, to get Evan, to get Paul released from the terror that they are experiencing being in these penal colonies,” Thomas-Greenfield added.
Possible end to Black Sea grain deal threatens to accelerate world hunger. Here's what else to know today
From CNN Staff
If the Group of Seven nations decide to ban exports to Russia, Moscow officials have threatened to terminate the Black Sea grain deal, viewed as critical to addressing the world hunger crisis.
Such a ban could be part of the ever-evolving set of sanctions the allies have leveled against Moscow for its war in Ukraine.
Normally, Ukraine supplies about 45 million metric tons of grain to the global market every year and is the world’s top exporter of sunflower oil. Together with Russia, it accounted for about one-quarter of global wheat exports in 2019.
Here are the top headlines to know:
UN ambassadors condemn Russia's actions in Ukraine: All 27 ambassadors of the European Union made a joint statement condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine just ahead of Russia chairing Monday’s United Nations Security Council meeting, where it holds the rotating presidency of that body this month. Also at the meeting, Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of detained American Paul Whelan, demanded Russia free her brother. “Paul has not committed a crime, but a crime has been committed against him,” Whelan said at the UN stakeout, accompanied by the US, Irish and Canadian ambassadors to the UN.
Ukrainian officials detect shift in Russian focus: Ukrainian officials say the Russian focus in the eastern Donetsk region has shifted slightly, but the city of Bakhmut and the ruined towns of Mariinka and Avdiivka remain the focus of Russian assaults. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said that in the Bakhmut sector, the Russians were using what she called the "Syrian tactics" of total destruction of buildings and facilities.
China and former Soviet countries: China respects the sovereign state status of ex-Soviet Union countries, foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Monday. Mao’s remarks come after the Chinese ambassador to France Lu Shaye sparked controversy for saying during a TV interview that former Soviet countries, including the Baltic states, don't have "effective status in international law." China has so far refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or call for a withdrawal of its troops, instead urging restraint by “all parties” and accusing NATO of fueling the conflict. It has also continued to deepen diplomatic and economic ties with Moscow.
Ammunition supply to Ukraine needs to speed up, top EU official says
From CNN's Tim Lister
The flow of ammunition to Ukraine needs to increase “in the coming days,” European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said Monday.
"More than one thousand missiles have been provided. The amount of ammunition is growing, and has to grow quicker in the coming days," he said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
Borrell said there needed to be a “just peace” in the conflict but, until then, the EU would continue to support the defense of Ukraine. So far, the EU had provided about $14 billion in military support, and the EU was continuing to deliver on its promise of 1 million rounds of ammunition, he said.
A second tranche of $1 billion for purchases of ammunition from EU states was being finalized, he said. “There has been some disagreement, but the work continues. We are not waiting for the legal document to be finished to start working.”
He also said the EU was reaching out to outside countries to reinforce the effect of international sanctions against Russia.
Moscow threatens to end Black Sea grain deal if G7 bans exports to Russia. Here's why the agreement matters
From CNN's Mariya Knight
Moscow is threatening to terminate the Black Sea grain deal, viewed as critical to addressing the world hunger crisis, if the Group of Seven nations ban exports to Russia.
Such a ban could be part of the ever-evolving set of sanctions the allies have leveled against Moscow for its war in Ukraine.
Ukraine normally supplies about 45 million metric tons of grain to the global market every year and is the world’s top exporter of sunflower oil. Together with Russia, it accounted for about one-quarter of global wheat exports in 2019.
On Sunday, Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president and deputy chair of Russia's security council, implied in a Telegram post that Moscow would answer a new G7 export ban by halting the flow of "goods that are the most sensitive for G7."
Alliance response: The G7 called for the “extension, full implementation and expansion” of the Black Sea grain deal in a statement published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan on Sunday.
Moscow has pulled out of the deal before: Russia had suspended its participation in the UN-brokered agreement in October 2022 after drone attacks on the Crimean city of Sevastopol, Ukraine.
Shipments have been stop-and-start during the deal, with each side accusing the other of sabotaging the operation at times.
Origins of the deal and impact: Turkey, alongside the United Nations, helped broker the deal in July 2022. The agreement established a procedure that guaranteed the safety of ships carrying Ukrainian grain, fertilizer and other foodstuff through a humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea.
Under the deal, all vessels coming to and from Ukraine’s ports were inspected and monitored by international teams made up of officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN.
CNN's Uliana Pavlova, Sugam Pokharel, Dennis Lapin, Ivana Kottasová and Katharina Krebs contributed to this report.
Ukrainian officials detect shift in Russian focus in Donetsk and use of "Syrian tactics" in Bakhmut
From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova and Tim Lister
Ukrainian officials say the Russian focus in the eastern Donetsk region has shifted slightly, but the city of Bakhmut and the ruined towns of Mariinka and Avdiivka remain the focus of Russian assaults.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Monday there had been 47 air strikes by Russian planes over the past day, and more than 30 ground assaults had been repelled.
Ukrainian forces continue to cling on to parts of the city of Bakhmut and the access route from the west. The General Staff said that "during the day, the enemy conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the direction of Novomarkove and Khromove," settlements to the northwest and west of the city.
The Deputy Defense Minister, Hanna Maliar, said that in the Bakhmut sector, the Russians were using what she called the "Syrian tactics" of total destruction of buildings and facilities.
"At the same time, our defenders are carrying out active assault operations and preventing the enemy from taking control of the city," Maliar said.
One soldier serving in the Bakhmut area, Yurii Syrotiuk of the 5th separate assault brigade, said the Russians had air superiority but were not flying over the front lines because Ukrainian units had “many portable means” of air defenses.
Echoing Maliar, Syrotiuk said: "The enemy is trying to completely destroy our defensive lines. They are throwing heavy bombs at the buildings in the city, which completely destroys them. The enemy drives their infantry under the sound of their artillery fire." But the official said that "what the enemy is gaining with terrible losses, we often repel in one day."
He said Ukraine had regained trenches near the village of Khromove.
Maliar noted a decrease in Russian attacks in one area of the front line that has been very active for several months — near the Ukrainian-held town of Lyman.
"In the Lyman sector, the aggressor failed to break through our defenses and its activity has slightly decreased," she said. "At the same time, the enemy is shelling our positions in this area and regrouping."
The General Staff reported that, "The enemy did not conduct any offensive in the Lyman sector."
Elsewhere, the same pattern of Russian artillery and mortar fire continued across the front line, with the town of Vuhledar coming under heavy bombardment.
In the south, according to the General Staff, Russian forces are carrying out "defensive actions at the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions," but that includes heavy shelling of settlements close to the front lines. Maliar said that the Russians were doing their best "to maintain control over the occupied borders and prevent the advance of our troops" in the south.
US ambassador to UN: Russia "struck at the heart of the UN Charter"
From CNN's Mariya Knight and Richard Roth
In remarks to reporters Monday ahead of the United Nations Security Council meeting, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that “it’s impossible to ignore the giant elephant in the room: Russia."
The ambassador said Russia "struck at the heart of the UN Charter,” accusing the country that invaded its neighbor Ukraine of "arbitrarily detaining political activists, journalists, and opposition leaders,” as well as for “wrongfully detained American citizens."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in charge Monday of a United Nations Security Council meeting because Russia currently holds the rotating presidency of the council.
The UN ambassador also accused Russia of using imprisoned Americans Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich as “political pawns.” Whelan has been detained in Russia for more than four years; Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was arrested in Russia last month and subsequently charged with espionage.
"Of course, Paul and Evan are also beloved friends. They are sons. They are brothers," she emphasized. "There is a human cost to Russia’s violation of international norms, to its barbaric practice of using people as political pawns."
She urged Russia to move on a proposal for Whelan's release and said the United States "will not relent until Paul, Evan, and all hostages and wrongfully detained Americans are brought back, safe and sound.”
The US ambassador to the UN then turned the floor over to Elizabeth Whelan, Paul Whelan's sister.
She called her brother “a pawn and victim of Russia’s descent into lawlessness” and condemned Russia for its “tradition of hostage-diplomacy.”
“Paul has not committed a crime, but a crime has been committed against him,” she stressed.
“Russia’s less-than-sophisticated take on diplomacy is to arbitrarily detain American citizens in order to extract concessions from the United States,” Elizabeth Whelan continued. “This is not the work of a mature and responsible nation; it is the action of a terrorist state.”
Ukrainian official says Russia has "powerful concentrations" in southern city of Melitopol
From CNN's Svitlana Vlasova and Olga Voitovych
The mayor of the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol says there are “powerful concentrations” of Russian forces in the area — a region that may be the focus of a Ukrainian counter-offensive in the weeks to come.
Ivan Fedorov, who is not in Melitopol himself, said on Ukrainian television: “We see that today there are two extremely powerful concentrations” of Russian forces in the occupied part of the Melitopol region.
He said that one was located on the coast of the Azov Sea [in Kyrylivka], “where the enemy has seized a huge number of recreation centers, hotels, etc.”
Fedorov said the Russians were using the area as a place to trans-ship their military cargo and heavy weapons and had a smaller base on the other side of the Azov coast [in Prymorskyi Posad].
Fedorov said that Russian-backed local administrations in Zaporizhzhia region (where Melitopol is situated) are preparing for the evacuation of civilians.
He repeated claims made by other Ukrainian officials that “they are preparing to take our children out of many areas of the temporarily occupied Zaporizhzhia region. For example, in Enerhodar, they aim to collect all the data about our children by the end of the week, and starting from May 5, they will announce the evacuation of children and take them somewhere in mainland Russia, or at least to temporarily occupied Crimea.”
Fedorov said there was a similar situation in the town of Bilmak, close to the front line.
He also claimed that people in occupied areas were being pressured into applying for Russian passports, including being required to possess Russian documents to receive medical treatment.
CNN cannot independently verify Fedorov's claims.
In recent weeks, other Ukrainian officials have alleged that Russian-appointed officials are coercing the evacuation of civilians from occupied areas. Vladyslav Nazarov, spokesperson of the Operational Command "South," said that Russian occupiers intended to take children from the east bank of the Kherson region for "treatment" in Crimea or Russia. They had also established routes for the evacuation of residents.
"I am here to tell Russia: free Paul Whelan," says detained American's sister at UN
From CNN's Jennifer Hansler
“I am here to tell Russia: free Paul Whelan,” Elizabeth Whelan said in remarks prior to a UN Security Council meeting at which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be in attendance.
“Paul has not committed a crime, but a crime has been committed against him,” Whelan said at the UN stakeout, accompanied by the US, Irish, and Canadian ambassadors to the UN.
“I no longer know what my brother looks like. The images that we see on television and in the news, that's Paul Whelan in the life he was living before he was taken captive. No one has been allowed to take a photo of him since his trial almost three years,” Whelan described.
“Paul was a corporate security director. He had a job he loved ... a life of hope and opportunity. All that has been taken away from him by Russia, a country that revels in its culture of lies, its tradition of hostage diplomacy,” she said.
“I am here today to tell the global community that one way to engage in effective multilateralism is to confront those countries that resort to hostage diplomacy,” Whelan added.
She referenced the case of Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist who has been wrongfully detained by Russia under charges of espionage – the same crime for which her brother was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
“This Russian playbook is so lazy, that even Evan has the same investigator, a man who harassed and interrogated my brother until Paul's sham trial in June of 2020,” Whelan said.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in her remarks prior to the meeting that it was “impossible to ignore the giant elephant in the room: Russia.”
“Russia, the convener of today's meeting, invaded his neighbors in Ukraine and struck at the heart of the UN Charter. And Russia, time and time again, has violated universal human rights and fundamental freedoms both outside and inside its own borders – that includes arbitrarily detaining political activists, journalists and opposition leaders as well as the wrongful detention of American citizens,” she said.
Whelan told CNN that “it was quite a moment” to be in the room with the people who are imprisoning her brother. She said Lavrov did look at her when Thomas-Greenfield acknowledged her during the meeting.
Whelan said she hopes her brother somehow saw some of the coverage, “so he knows we're still fighting for him and that we will not give up.”